Six developers – some with familiar names in Verona – have submitted proposals to redevelop the Sugar Creek Elementary School site.
Each of the plans contains at least 200 apartment units and a park, but the suggestions vary from there.
Only one specifies a use for the century-old New Century School building on West Verona Avenue – a leasing office above a public historic area – though among the ideas for either public or public-private restoration of the building is a children’s museum.
Only one of the six proposals would include a community pool, something that has been brought up at various stages of the process, though at least one other provides a spot that could be used for one.
The proposals vary widely in how much the city would need to contribute. On one end, the city would accept more than $3 million for the land – which it is paying $4.5 million to acquire – and on the other end of the spectrum, the city would sell the land for free and then put up nearly $9 million in taxpayer funding.
The 12-acre property, in a prime location between Verona’s downtown and Legion Street, is being transferred to the city later this year after the Verona Area School District shuts down the Sugar Creek and New Century buildings, moving the programs elsewhere. While the city has made it clear it wants to preserve the 102 year old NCS building, it expects to raze Sugar Creek.
The proposals that have been floated since the city’s Community Development Authority began exploring what to do with the property have included a community center, a makerspace, a community pool and a park. It’s also expected to have some combination of apartments and commercial space to help support the city’s downtown.
In August 2019, the CDA and a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student-run company presented three conceptual designs at an open house to around 20 people, mostly Verona residents, who asked questions and offered feedback. The CDA then sent out a request for proposals in January, and after the COVID-19 pandemic slowed many activities around the world, the city pushed back the initial March deadline to April 27.
City administrator Adam Sayre told the Press on Monday, May 5, that city staffers are working on a review process and the CDA is planning a virtual meeting for May 18 to discuss the plans and interview developers. The group could recommend a developer to work with at that meeting or a future one, and the next step would be the Common Council working out a deal to sell the land to that developer after the city acquires it in November.
Sayre said the plans are all conceptual and would be refined and reviewed through a public process like any other development project.
Among the developers are McKenzie Apartment Company, which built Siena Ridge Apartments on the city’s north side; T. Wall Enterprises, which built the West End apartments just north of the new high school; Steve Brown Apartments, which purchased those apartments and is building a shopping center next to it; and Alexander Company, which redeveloped the former Brunsell Lumber site downtown into condominiums and a commercial space that now includes Hop Haus. Alexander and Steve Brown submitted a joint proposal.
Other developers are Northpointe Development Corporation and Avante Properties, which submitted a joint proposal; Gorman and Company; and Green Street. Green Street, from Missouri, and Northpointe, out of Oshkosh, are the only developers not based in Dane County.
All but one (T. Wall) propose at least 87 housing units they deem “affordable,” based on federal definitions of Area Median Income, which is $100,100 in Dane County for a family of four. To be considered affordable, rents must be no more than 30 percent of that income level.
In general, building such units qualifies developers for federal tax credits, and some of those credits require units to be built to be affordable to 80 percent, 50 percent or 30 percent of that AMI. Some of the proposals clearly state those definitions; others do not.
McKenzie Apartments would bring 318 apartments, 92 of them affordable, along with a six- or eight-lane community pool, a 0.7 acre park with a bandstand, a 4,000 square foot playground and a separate dog park.
The proposal would have the school converted to community use, likely by donating it to a Boys and Girls Club or a similar nonprofit. It would not include any space for commercial or retail use.
The proposal outlines all the costs, the funding, and even the management of the apartments. It essentially proposes to acquire the property for $77,000. It would spend $3.2 million for the infrastructure, demolition and other costs, including $850,000 for the pool. It projects construction starting next year and finishing in June 2023.
T. Wall Enterprises would focus heavily on the apartments, with 402 units, some of them in four-story buildings, and a private pool, clubhouse and fitness center for those apartments.
Its public area would be a playground and bandshell, and it would be built in 2023.
It reserves an area for commercial and retail in a future stage, along with more apartments, likely 10 years from now or more, and only if it secures adjoining properties, including the former Michael’s Custard shop and the Sugar River United Methodist Church.
It would feature a car wash, something Verona hasn’t had since Badger Car Wash was demolished to make way for the Sugar Creek Commons directly to the west, off Legion Street.
T. Wall would pay $1 for the property and request tax-increment financing. It would donate the NCS building back to the city for a community center.
Steve Brown/ Alexander
Apartment developer Steve Brown and commercial developer Alexander would work together on a plan with 236 apartments, including 104 they call affordable, plus 10,000 square feet of mixed use, a stage, playground and an open area called a great lawn that is listed as having a variety of potential uses.
Among those uses could be a pool, pickleball courts and a farmer’s market or a community center. It would renovate NCS – something the proposal notes Alexander has experience with – and possibly turn it into a children’s museum.
The proposal notes that Alexander owns the home at 100 S. Marietta, which is in the northeast corner of the area, where the commercial space (20 apartments above retail) would be located. The proposal projects a cost of $54 million, with $8.9 million coming from TIF and the city providing the property for free.
The Northpointe-Avante plan would build 284 apartments and townhomes, half of which are considered affordable, plus a 2-acre park – the largest of the proposals – with a seven-station fitness court, pickleball and public Wi-Fi. It would complete this by 2022.
It include an area for a future phase where existing privately owned properties are located, for mixed space and commercial, and it suggests plans to expand the commercial area even farther, across Verona Avenue, where Old National Bank and the Klassik Tavern are located.
Northpointe would renovate the New Century building – something its proposal says has considerable experience with – for either offices or a makerspace, and its parking and the adjacent park would be suitable for a farmers market.
It would pay $1 million for the site and would ask the city to contribute to public improvements and infrastructure, though it does not detail the amount.
The Gorman plan has two options, with the first leaving the Sugar Creek building intact and building 157 apartments and townhomes around it, 87 of which would be affordable.
That plan, at a cost of $38 million, would not require any contribution from the city other than the land and would be finished in April 2022.
The other option requests $2.5 million for the city to demolish the building and extend Church Street and would put 125 apartments in that space.
Either plan would create a publicly available community center and makerspace in the existing New Century building and have a park area to the south.
Green Street’s plan would include 278 apartments and townhomes (half of them affordable), plus 17,000 square feet of commercial space and a small park.
It would make two uses of the New Century building – the first floor would be a historic area and the second would be leasing offices for the apartments and townhomes. It would also add a community room and amenity space to that building.
Nearly 70 pages of its 81 page proposal details the company’s background and that of other companies it would be working with. The $58 million project would be finished in September 2022.
It indicates that $3.2 million would go to the cost of land acquisition, but its brief financial summary does not show any request for TIF or other city financing.